Recently I was sharing with a client how one of the most important factors related to how quickly and how much weight someone loses is not their training program. It isn’t the sets and the reps. Or the frequency or duration. Or even the type of activity.
And I’m not specifically referring to their nutrition. It isn’t the ratio of macro-nutrients. Or the total energy consumed. Or the timing of the meals. Or whether they fasted or not.
Sure all these matter and play a role in a weight loss strategy. But these efforts can all be wasted if there isn’t one key component of a healthy lifestyle already in place.
And this key component is sleep.
I’m not going to go into detail in this blog about the impact of sleep and fat loss. If you would like to know more, and are interested in which hormones are involved in sleep and fat loss then make sure to comment below and I’ll see you the report.
But for now let’s focus on getting the best sleep possible. And to do this I’ve broken this up into four categories which are routine, technology, journal and nutrition. Below is a little more detail on each.
Condition #1 for Better Sleep – Routine
In order to get the best sleep you need to establish a sleep routine. For here the analogy to use is putting a baby to sleep.
If you do the same things in the same order each day at the same time before bed a baby will not only know to expect sleep is coming but will actually look forward to sleep. Change the order of the things you do and the baby may not sleep. Do these things at a different time and the baby may not sleep. Change the types of things you do before bed and the baby may not sleep.
So the take home message is you are a big baby and need a bedtime routine.
Now think of all the factors that can influence whether you sleep or not including:
* time for bed
* meal before bed
* type and volume of drink before bed
* darkness of the room
* coolness of the room
* quietness of the room
* activities before bed
* comfortableness of the bed
And there are many more bedtime conditions we could add to this list. And this doesn’t even begin to look at any of the things going on between your ears before bed.
If you are still stuck about how this all works get yourself a baby and practice for a couple of months and you’ll see the value of establishing a bedtime routine.
Condition #2 for Better Sleep – Technology
The problem with technological devices is that they emit light and engage our minds. The light tricks our brains into thinking we are out in the sun and still have work to do. As a result there is a delay in secreting the sleep hormone melatonin.
Before all of the e-readers we would have read something fun that wasn’t backlit and therefore disrupted the sleep response. In addition to the reading from an iPad the same applies to working at any work station or sitting in front of the TV.
Since the time response for our brains to detect a lower amount of light and begin the process of secreting melatonin in not instantaneous we should anticipate this delay and begin limiting our exposure to light by dimming the lights ahead of our anticipated sleep time.
I won’t get into too much other detail regarding technology and sleep other than to say ditch the alarm if you can. The more consistent your sleep becomes you’ll soon get to the point where you’ll wake up without alarm. Alternatively you could use a Sleeptracker watch which wakes you at your most awake point in the sleep cycle. I’ve heard there is an app for your phone for this but I’m not sure if sleeping with your phone under your pillow is your best option.
In the meantime unplug as much as possible and dim the lights a little bit earlier than normal.
Condition #3 for Better Sleep – Journal
When it comes to training the best results come to those that write down everything they do in the gym. And the same goes with nutrition. I mean how else can you measure success or not if you don’t know all the steps you took?
The same applies to your sleep.
What was the temperature of the room when you had your best night’s sleep? What did you eat and drink before bed? What did you do before bed? What time did you go to bed? And when did you wake up? Were you up during the night? And did you wake up to an alarm or on your own?
And since there is just as much value to the factors to that didn’t contribute to optimal sleep we want to know the answers to the above when you didn’t sleep well.
Pretty soon you’ll know the exact conditions to replicate for the best night’s sleep.
But besides journalling the sleep conditions there is another task that involves journalling. And it’s called a brain dump.
Have you ever gone to sleep with a number of things running through your head? And you end up not sleeping because you try to resolve these during the night?
If this happens to you than you should try a brain dump which involves writing down everything that is going on in your head before you go to sleep. Maybe you’re thinking about an upcoming trip. And booking flights, renewing your passport, arranging for time off work, a kennel for the pet and to cancel the newspaper subscription…
It’s easy to see how all these details may keep you up at night. A brain dump will help you release these tasks before bed and allow you to drift off. Another suggested benefit is the subconscious may help to resolve some of your tasks during your sleep and present solutions to you upon waking.
Condition #4 for Better Sleep – Nutrition
We all know that caffeine and alcohol will disrupt sleep. But what about high calorie meals? Or meals that are high in carbohydrates? Or that are high on the glycemic index?
Think of everything you eat as sending a message to your brain regarding whether you are about to sleep or work? If carbohydrates are fuel source maybe a high carbohydrate meal before bed isn’t the best option.
And be careful of the caffeine free diet sodas which stimulate the part of the brain which craves sugar. So even though you won’t be getting many carbs or caffeine from the soda you may just stay up a little later or delay sleep by the chips that went along with it.
If you are starving before bed look to have a small snack of protein and fat with minimal carbohydrate. And the carbohydrate should be low to medium on the glycemic index.
Going forward pick the one strategy above that you think will be the easiest for you to commit for the next couple of weeks. After that work on the next easiest and so forth until you have achieved control over all areas that may influence your sleep.
All the best,